Disney Employee Accuses Company of Covering Up Sexual Assault by Former Exec in New Lawsuit

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a Disney employee says she was sexually assaulted by a a former executive, and further accuses the company of covering up both that attack and a larger pattern of sexual misconduct, and then retaliating against her.

The suit names Disney, former vice president of distribution Nolan Gonzales, Searchlight and 20th Century as defendants.

The plaintiff, who is listed as a Jane Doe, says that starting in 2015, soon after she was hired, Gonzales, who at the time was an executive director, started sexually harassing her.

Representatives for Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap. Gonzales could not be reached.

According to the plaintiff, Gonzales escalated this behavior over time, “incessantly” asking her on dates. She declined these requests and says he then attempted to guilt her into accepting by implying he could help her career.

By 2016, the suit alleges, the plaintiff had been warned by other Disney employees that Gonzales was well known for such behavior, but nothing was ever done.

“Management was incentivized to hide Gonzales’s harassment because he generated valuable revenue as the Director of Distribution. Management did not escalate concerns to human resources and created an environment in which Gonzales was free to harass women with impunity,” the suit says. “Women were discouraged to come forward about his behaviors because management seemingly accepted Gonzales conduct as being part of the entertainment industry and his firing would hurt the company financially.”

The plaintiff aleges that the harassment continued into 2017, first at a company conference in Las Vegas where Gonzales “begged her to have sex with him in her room.” She declined and says she did not report the incident because she was unsure who to trust. “Management was already aware of Gonzales’s lascivious nature, and he constantly reminded her that he was good friends with them,” the suit says.

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This culminated, the suit claims, with Gonzales coercing her into a sexual relationship soon afetr being promoted to Vice President of Distribution at Searchlight. He began, the suit says, providing her with drugs, which the plaintiff believed were MDMA and GHB, “so that he could sexually abuse her with limited resistance or questioning.”

The plaintiff says she attempted to cut off all contact with Gonzales in May 2018, and “in retaliation, he told other employees that he had sex with her.” She didn’t complain at the time but, the suit says, in November 2018 she complained to Disney’s Human Resources department. “To her knowledge, her complaints were not investigated or escalated.”

The suit says that by 2022, “many people in management were aware” of the matter, and that at one point, “plaintiff overheard a chairperson at Disney say that Gonzales was a pervert and that other women at the company felt the same way.”

The suit says that Gonzales left the company — “Gonzales ‘retired’ from his position,” it says — after three other women came forward later in 2022 to complain about his behavior, and that in 2023 the company retaliated against her by demoting her, using the mass layoffs that year as an excuse. The suit also says that the plaintiff was diagnosed with an unspecified medical problem related to her experiences, and that Disney refused to accomodate her needs.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial, and seeks unspecified general and specific damages, exemplary damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, statuatory damages, coverage of legal fees and declaratory relief as determined at trial.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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